Dear Fellows & Friends:

Let me begin by expressing a hearty congratulations to the Robertson Fellows Class of 2022 graduates! Your effort and determination have paid off, and you should be very proud. I am proud to hear that many of you have already secured post-graduation employment, including our three PMF Finalists – Demetria Charlifue, Ryan Damron, and Katherine Maxwell – who have secured PMF appointments at USAID and the Voice of America. The Foundation is honored to count you among our distinguished group of Robertson Alumni.

This is also an exciting time for our First Year Fellows who are interning with federal agencies in positions around the world – from USINDOPACOM in Hawaii to the U.S. Embassy in Tunisia, Robertson Fellows are making an impact! I hope that these internship experiences provide clarity on the next steps in your burgeoning careers and help prepare you to serve as leaders in the public sector.

On behalf of the RFG Board and family, we are honored to have so many Fellows and Alumni representing the Robertson name and mission throughout the Federal Government. Thank you for your continued efforts in public service. Our family’s mission could not be realized without your hard work and dedication. I wish each of you and your families a safe and enjoyable summer!

Geoff Robertson

RFG is pleased to present the first in a series of official alumni spotlights. This month we feature William Creedon (UMD SPP, ‘18), a Presidential Management Fellow at the Office of Management and Budget.

Creedon graduated cum laude from Macalester College with a B.A., majoring in economics and minoring in statistics. 

Having lived and worked in Illinois, California, and North Carolina, William is proud to have spent his childhood in Minnesota.

What or who prompted you to focus on public service?

There was no single experience or person. It began with my grandparents’ habit of talking about politics, then my interest in history during public school years, and, as a tipping point, my realization while working in a private sector job I didn’t like after college, watching “Parks and Rec”, that I was meant to be a public policy and public service guy. I also benefited since undergrad from a great advisor, Prof. Sarah West, who taught me about the richness and challenges of public finance and economic policy.


How has the Robertson Fellowship influenced your career to date?

The Robertson Foundation always reminds me of the ideal of civil service, and that people of all walks of life and nationalities depend on the professionalism of American civil servants, whether in foreign policymaking, foreign service, or elsewhere. It has also made me more motivated to hold leaders to high expectations and personally commit to ongoing learning and professional growth.


Were there specific graduate courses that you found prepared you especially well for government service?

I would say my U.S. foreign policymaking process and program evaluation courses. Policymaking helped me appreciate the interconnectedness and complexities of both the executive branch bureaucracy and our shared-powers government, as well as the importance of being a quick study and clear communicator. Evaluation because it taught me how to make rational inferences and define and measure performance in policy situations that so often require decisions with very limited information.


What excites you most about working in your public service career? 

I love the opportunities public service provides for meeting great people and learning about complex governance issues and policies. I also feel good about contributing professionally to a country with, generally speaking, such an inspiring narrative and set of values; it’s far from perfect, but I feel the “American experiment” has refined itself and its aspirations in often very positive ways.


Is there an experience in your government position that has been/was particularly enlightening or surprising to you?

The retirement parties of two long-tenured budget technocrats at OMB shortly after I arrived. My eyes were opened to the importance of office culture and institutional memory in maintaining the functioning of good government (and occasionally bad). And how political officials have a significant opportunity to make things in their agencies better, but a much smaller ability to do harm, fortunately, at least in the short-term. The former underscores the importance of managing the civil service to prevent brain drain as older servants retire, and the latter underscores the power of political officials to bring positive leadership, if they bring the talent and find the pluck to do so.


Are there particular resources that you recommend to individuals interested in a career in public service?

I’ve always found GovLoop to be a helpful general resource for current and prospective public servants. I think The Hill and Politico are useful news sources, and the Congressional Research Service is fantastic when you need to do a deeper dive. I’m probably a tad biased (and a total nerd), but I think it’s very helpful to have at least a basic understanding of how the appropriations and budget process works (and what Congress has to pass each year if they want to keep the government running!), and to know where to find statutes (agency websites,, or The Congressional Research Service provides appropriations tracking, and GAO has a great glossary of budget terms.


What advice do you have for current fellows and early career professionals as they pursue a career in public service?

Be patient with the processes of governing, but quick to make starts. I’ve usually made mistakes when I try to make ‘executive’ or concluding decisions too quickly because something feels like it is dragging. And you lose opportunities to build strong collaborative relationships – even though it takes more time and may feel tedious, you honor your colleagues by offering to include them in decisions and recommendations. Not only does this lead to better, longer-lasting solutions, but these relationships (and the accompanying positive reputation you earn) pay dividends throughout your career. But be quick to make starts – it’s far easier to tell your leadership that something might be an issue, that you might not understand how to do something, or to involve colleagues or offices that might have objections or helpful views, and to walk it back when you figure it out, than to sit on something. This approach will also help you learn your job a lot faster so that over time there are fewer false alarms.

The Class of 2023 Robertson Fellows have finished their first year of graduate school and are settling into their summer internships, focused on furthering their interests in public service. From internships at the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to the Department of State’s Bureau of Public Affairs Research team, RFG Fellows are working around the world to support government offices and learn more about public service.

Jacob Emont (Maxwell ‘23) is interning in the U.S. State Department’s Embassy in Tunisia.

“I am very excited to see diplomacy in action and better understand the inner-workings of the State Department’s foreign posts,” Emont explains. “Like many people, I think my interest in public service stems from a desire to be a force for positive change and progress in the world. Though it is not without its difficulties, I have seen throughout my studies and career so far that the public sector is where substantial change can be made, and I would like the opportunity to be a part of, and shape, that change.”

Megan Whinna (UMD SPP ‘23) is interning with the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Public Affairs Research Team and is excited to put her interest in data analysis and research into practice.

“I am really excited for the opportunity during my summer internship to take ownership of a research project and get to see that research through from a conceptual hypothesis to reporting my findings using a ‘real world’ data set,” Whinna elaborates. “I think this is an amazing opportunity to directly apply skills I have learned in a classroom to marketable job experience.”

Emont, Whinna, and the other first year Fellows will spend the summer interning in offices, learning about government operations in different departments, and supporting critical missions around the world. While some of our Fellows will be in-person this summer, like Emily Ashbridge (Bush ‘23) who is interning at the United States Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) in Hawaii, some internships continue to operate remotely.

RFG Fellow Cody Arigo (UMD SPP ‘23) will intern remotely with the UMD Applied Research Laboratory for Intelligence and Security. Christina Baker (Bush ‘23) and Naomi Atughonu (UMD SPP ‘23) will also be interning remotely with the GAO.

As part of the Fellowship program, RFG supports students as they seek to find matches for their summer internship experiences. As Emont explains, “The Robertson Foundation for Government afforded me an incredible opportunity with the Fellowship, which provided me the means and motivation to go back to school and pursue a career in public service. Additionally, RFG has provided essential guidance throughout my studies, which has been key to my search for an internship and eventually a career after graduation.”

In addition to their internship experiences, First Year Fellows are attending a series of professional development programs designed to strengthen their skills, broaden their professional networks, and expose them to new and exciting career opportunities in the Federal Government. Programming includes sessions with RFG Alumni who will discuss strategies on how to best succeed as an intern, Federal Government policy memoranda and communications writing workshops, roundtable discussions on the security and refugee crises in Ukraine, and networking opportunities with public sector professionals in Washington, D.C.

We look forward to sharing more about their summer experiences and highlighting their stories this Fall.

Congratulations to the graduating Class of 2022! These highly qualified, committed, globally-aware individuals are beginning careers dedicated to serving the public as leaders in international issues, foreign policy, and national security.

For some of these Fellows, deciding to pursue a career in public service doesn’t come as a surprise, as a passion for public service runs in the family.

Katherine Maxwell (Maxwell ‘22), who will begin her Presidential Management Fellowship (PMF) appointment as a Budget Analyst at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), shares how her personal and family background contributed to her desire to work in public service. “My father was a probation officer, and my mother is a professor of public health who focuses on health disparities,” Maxwell states. “I decided that public service would be the best way to advance the issues I care about. I am highly mission-driven and am professionally fulfilled when my work makes a meaningful difference in peoples’ lives.”

Demetria Charlifue (Bush ‘22) is also a PMF and will begin her work in the USAID Middle East Bureau. Charlifue grew up overseas while her parents served on assignments in the Foreign Service.

“During my formative childhood years, I experienced momentous milestones, celebrations, and occasions alone while my parents served on assignments that separated my family more often than not. Though I experienced a different childhood than most of my peers, I took great pride in my parents’ contributions to a mission that was larger than my nuclear family,” Charlifue shares.

Phoebe DeVos-Cole (UMD SPP ‘22) is joining the U.S. Navy and preparing to enter Officer Candidate School in Rhode Island this Fall to pursue her dream of becoming a Navy pilot.

“I come from a public service-oriented family,” DeVos-Cole explains. “There are a number of veterans and service members in my family, and my parents have always been very community-oriented. I have always been a service-oriented individual, and this, coupled with my interest in government and policy, led me to pursue a career in the Federal Government and a Master of Public Policy.”

Robertson Fellows have already interned in positions across the government giving them some insight of what the government can offer.

Charlifue had the opportunity while at the Bush School to serve on the Department of State’s Afghanistan Task Force where she “supported the Department’s largest relocation efforts in history to support American citizens and our Afghan allies.”

For DeVos-Cole, RFG provided a connection with the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, leading to a summer fellowship “which solidified my desire to pursue a career in the military and provided me with a plethora of professional connections and mentors.”

For those who hadn’t been exposed to the Federal Government prior to graduate school, RFG has provided tools and resources as Fellows pursued their work in this sector.

“Nobody in my family works for the Federal Government, and I came to Syracuse not knowing how to write a federal resume or knowing anyone in D.C.,” Maxwell recollects. “Through the Foundation’s programming and Alumni, I have gained the tools to navigate the federal hiring and interview process, become connected to a network of RFG Alumni from Syracuse and the other partner schools, and learned about government agencies and career paths I had not previously considered.”

As the graduating Fellows embark on this next chapter in their careers in public service, they are eager to learn and experience all the Federal Government has to offer.

“I am excited to work with and learn from people who are experts in their fields and similarly passionate about public service,” Maxwell explains. “I am also excited about the number of paths my career can take, as the Federal Government has so many agencies and opportunities to grow.”

For Charlifue, the most thrilling part of a career in public service comes from the impact that she can have on some of the most pressing challenges in a dynamic region. “I look forward to working under the leadership of USAID Administrator Samantha Power, problem-solving in a challenging region, being part of the COP2022 planning, learning from incredible development professionals and promoting the White House’s foreign affairs priorities in the Middle East.”

For DeVos-Cole, a career in the Navy is an opportunity to give back to her country and pursue a lifelong dream. “I am excited to work in a physically and intellectually demanding environment alongside other dedicated and service-oriented professionals. I’ve always wanted to fly, so being selected to become a Navy pilot is a dream come true.”


The Robertson Foundation for Government congratulates the Class of 2022! Below is a sample of some of the places where the Fellows are launching their careers in public service, dedicated to serving as leaders in international issues, foreign policy, and national security

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office on Intelligence & Counterintelligence

U.S. Agency for International Development

U.S. Navy Officer Candidate School

Government Accountability Office

PhD Candidate at Baylor University

Center for Naval Analysis

TechCongress Fellowship

Voice of America

The Foundation is proud to have two Robertson Fellows taking part in the Boren Fellowship Program, through which scholars immerse themselves in cultures and study critical languages around the world.

Kelli Sunabe (Maxwell, ‘23), is currently completing her Boren Fellowship in Taiwan where she is studying Mandarin and JaKyah Beatty (UMD SPP, ‘24) has been accepted as a Boren Fellow to study Swahili in Tanzania this Fall.

Sunabe, who spent time in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as a Peace Corps volunteer, achieved some proficiency in the language, but applied for the fellowship because she wanted to achieve a higher Mandarin Chinese proficiency. “The influence of the PRC and the Republic of China (Taiwan) on other actors around the world is a factor that I believe can be better understood through cultural, historic, and linguistic traditions,” Sunabe explains.

Beatty tells of how travels abroad in undergrad led her to pursue a Boren Fellowship. While you might not immediately see the connection between global development and fashion merchandising, Beatty says it became evident during her junior year while studying abroad in Italy. “We participated in several global workshops in and around Italy, London, and Paris. The traveling projects taught us about sustainability and ethics in the fashion industry – from organic cotton farming to sweatshops and labor ethics in garment factories in developing countries. I was deeply inspired to learn more about how the apparel industry’s outsourcing influences developing countries and local economies.”

Beatty continued to build on that experience and started to work for a social enterprise in Uganda, focused on economic development by employing women to produce apparel sold in the U.S. and Canada. Her work led her to partner with two local Ugandan men, and develop a community organization providing education, professional development and alternative sources of income to women who previously worked in prostitution.

“Working with them taught me that sustainable development is more than just providing a job; it is teaching, supporting, and equipping individuals to create their opportunities and organizations,” Beatty elaborates. “I also realized that the field of international development lacks diversity. I was the only Black American out of about 60 expats working in different organizations around Gulu, Uganda, and the only African American of the 30 plus past employees who had worked with the same social enterprise that I had. These experiences were impactful enough to push me to pursue work in international development.”

Beatty hopes to build on this experience as a Boren Fellow. “I am interested in learning Swahili through the Boren Fellowship program because I deeply enjoyed my time in East Africa. I have learned so much since I spent time there after undergrad and would love to return with my increased knowledge of development and policy.”

Beatty hopes to use the experience to build on her career in public service, and to work in the Foreign Service as a Public Diplomacy Officer or Economic Officer.

“The Public Diplomacy Officer position interests me because it entails building bridges of understanding between Americans and the world. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, a large portion of our role was to share American culture with our communities and learn their culture to bring home and share with Americans. I believe that developing mutual cultural understanding is imperative to continuing strong foreign policy and foreign relations. I am also interested in the Economic Officer position as it involves working with other countries on environmental issues and promoting economic development in underdeveloped or newly emerging countries.”

Sunabe has also used her time as a Boren Fellow to increase her language skills and sees a long-term impact on foreign policy.

While the PRC and Taiwan share the same language, there are some divergences in various vocabulary, phrases, cultural references, etc. By the end of my fellowship, I hope to offer a more informed interpretation of word usage and its corresponding meaning for governmental policies, political rhetoric, and citizens’ perspectives on geo-politics.”

As they continue with this exciting new opportunity, both Beatty and Sunabe are grateful for their experiences with RFG.

“I have had the pleasure of working with the RFG staff who have been excellent in helping me choose fellowships and internships to apply for,” Beatty explains. “I have also enjoyed networking and hearing advice from the RFG alumni network virtually and in person.”

For Sunabe, “RFG has given me the means to pursue a career in public service. Throughout my graduate school career, they have provided extensive Federal Government career pathway training and events and special cross-governmental agency event opportunities; introduced me to a close-knit Alumni community; and actively encouraged me to pursue various internship and job opportunities. The RFG team ensures Fellows, including myself, have a smooth transition into a career in public service.”

For both women, they are eager to have careers in public service and to continue building upon U.S. international efforts.

“I hope to participate in a public service career that values the positive impact of U.S. bilateral and multilateral engagement and the capability for communities across continents to empower groups of people despite socio-economic and cultural barriers,” Sunabe states.

For Beatty who is about to embark on her Fellowship, she looks forward to a career dedicated to empowering people and improving systems that ultimately will influence the quality of life offered by the U.S. and other countries worldwide. In addition, I love learning about new cultures and problem-solving, so a career in foreign service and international development is something that genuinely interests me.”

Isabelle Heilman (UCSD GPS, ‘19) spent her time growing up in Arizona playing outside and watching her dad as he worked for the Federal Government. It’s no wonder that she has combined both to drive her to a career in public service as a Programmatic Project Analyst working in the Sustainability Performance Division at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

“My dad is a research scientist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and he prompted me to consider a career in public service,” Heilman says. “He has worked for the government almost my entire life and has had a fulfilling career.”

“Environmental stewardship was a strong pillar of my early life at home and school. I went to college knowing I wanted to study something related to the environment and when I found a major in Environment, Economics, and Politics it seemed like the perfect fit,” Heilman explains.

Even as she was thinking about graduate school, Heilman knew she wanted to work in the Federal Government and credits her Robertson Fellowship for pushing her to pursue the work following graduation.

“I had wanted to work in the Federal Government before applying for graduate school, but the Robertson Fellowship pushed me to pursue federal service upon graduating,” Heilman says. “The stipend during the summer helped support me through an unpaid internship at the State Department. The internship confirmed that I was interested in a career in federal service and set me up with the experience needed to receive a Presidential Management Fellowship at the Department of Energy upon graduating with my Master’s.”

As part of Heilman’s capstone class, she had the opportunity to combine a lot of skills that prepared her for her current job at the Department of Energy.

“I took a capstone class which was essentially a team consulting project for an electric vehicle rental company. The assignment required policy research, project management, and client management skills which have been critical for me in my current job. I highly recommend grad students try to get consulting experience where they tackle a policy problem,” Heilman elaborates.

Now that she is working full time in the Federal Government, she can continue to build on her love for the outdoors.

“Since I work at the Department of Energy headquarters, I have a portfolio-level view of all the sustainability and climate work across the Department. The National Laboratories of the Department of Energy are performing groundbreaking science and pushing innovation for energy technology. I am so excited to support the climate projects across our Labs helping DOE accomplish our mission more sustainably,” Heilman explains.

And throughout her time in the Federal Government, Heilman has been surprised by how different agencies can operate sustainability programs in such different ways.

“While I was a Presidential Management Fellow, I was able to do a developmental rotation in the Office of Sustainability and Climate at the U.S. Forest Service. It was surprising for me to see how different a sustainability program could be, given that all government agencies have the same requirements. I learned a ton and brought back some new ideas for my team at DOE,” Heilman recounts.

Heilman recently joined RFG and other alums to lead an Earth Day Careers in Conservation and Environmental Sustainability discussion where she talked about public service and entering into this important field. Heilman encourages anyone who wants to pursue a career in public service focused on sustainability or climate change to check out

As Heilman notes, “You can see all the agency plans for sustainability and climate change adaptation, as well as videos of the federal sustainability speaker series (including Dr. Bill Nye!).”

And for those looking to enter into public service, Heilman encourages patience.

“The hiring process in the government can be difficult and slow. If you want to work in government but are having trouble getting in the door, be persistent and try to leverage your network as much as possible!”

RFG Professional Development Fund
A friendly reminder that RFG offers funding up to $599 annually to RFG alumni in support of their professional development. If you would like more information and to apply for this funding, please contact Sharon Swabb at

The Washington Post Subscription
Members of the U.S. military and government with a valid .mil or .gov email address are eligible for free digital content access to The Washington Post! To start your free digital subscription, please click HERE.

Open Opportunities on USAJobs
Open Opportunities is a federal government-wide program offering professional development opportunities to current federal employees and internships to students. The program facilitates collaboration and knowledge sharing across the federal government. Find opportunities across government that will help you make new connections and develop yourself as a professional!

The Robertson Foundation for Government is excited to announce that it will be working with Melwood Global, a strategic communications and creative design firm, on the creation of future content for its newsletter and social media platforms, along with the implementation of a long-term strategic communications strategy. As fellows and alumni, you may be contacted by the Melwood Global team in support of RFG’s communications efforts. To that end, we would like to introduce Amanda Munger, a partner at Melwood Global, and Laura Giordano, an account executive at Melwood Global, who are directly working with RFG.


In January 2022, RFG hired one of its own! Sharon Swabb (UCSD, 2012) joined the RFG team as Chief Program Officer for Fellowships and Career Development. In this capacity, Mrs. Swabb leads the Foundation’s professional development programming for its fellows and alumni, along with providing career advising services. She also oversees the Foundation’s alumni engagement efforts and joins with our Vice President in managing the Foundation’s operations and partnership engagement.

Mrs. Swabb most recently served as a Career Coach at The George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs. Prior to that, she was a political appointee at both the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the White House Presidential Personnel Office.

After more than 10 years of service as the Career Advisor to the Foundation’s fellows and alumni, Dr. Michael Schneider will be retiring from this role effective at the end of March 2022. He has graciously agreed to continue advising the Foundation’s staff and board.

RFG would like to express our profound gratitude to Dr. Schneider for all that he has done on behalf of our RFG fellows and alumni and for his incredible contributions to the Foundation’s mission and efforts.

An avid writer and dedicated public servant who served in the U.S. Foreign Service and the Civil/Senior Executive Service with the U.S. Information Agency and the Department of State for more than 30 years, Dr. Schneider has written regularly on behalf of the RFG newsletter. The following piece written on the eve of his retirement, reflects on the lessons learned during his time in government and identifies future foreign policy challenges that RFG fellows and alumni will face. He offers insight, guidance, and encouragement to our fellows and alumni, whose “leadership will meet the tests of time.”